Summary: The letter that is written by James to the Jews scattered abroad is a letter that is often misunderstood and misused.
A Study of the Letter of James
August 14, 2013
James is a book that has long been misunderstood by many believers! We have seen some great men of faith come to the conclusion that what James seems to teach is in conflict with the teachings of grace from the Apostle Paul.
Martin Luther did not believe James to be a valid epistle calling it an epistle of straw… believing that James was calling for a works based salvation… which Luther had fought against in the Catholic church.
The book of James deals with Christology, or the study of Jesus Christ. James deals with Christology not so much from a theological perspective BUT from a perspective of the application of the Christian ethic or the application of the theological.
James deals with the Law a great deal in this short letter. The “Law” that James refers to is not the ceremonial law of the NT but the moral law of God…
The OT ceremonial laws had been fulfilled in Christ and there was now a NEW covenant in Christ… things were now different and we see James elaborating on for the most part on the teachings of Jesus… to James the teachings of Jesus WERE the new law!
Finally James speaks of the freedom this new law brings to the lives of believers. This freedom he speaks about is NOT some nebulous concept, but the freedom it brings… brings about maturity in our lives, giving a sense of completeness and that we lack nothing in Christ! It brings about the righteousness God desires!
Faith and deeds (works) are also dealt with, by James, in this letter. A believer’s obedience is NOT obedience to Jesus’ law apart from faith… but obedience is a result OF James’ faith! In fact, James tells his readers, “I will show you my faith by what I DO, not just by words!”
Faith is the starting point for believers and works or deeds are the result of the change brought into a believer’s life because of saving faith, and maturity is where Christ desires us to move toward…
Maturity is living out our faith in the way we function… our faith has legs, arms, a voice and hands… it WORKs t see others come to know Christ…
Maturity can really be seen as growing spiritually within the faith. James addresses this issue on many occasions within the letter!
When we look at the letter from James we can see many issues that he deals with in his teaching. Faith and deeds; ethics thru speech, trials, mercy, wealth; the ‘law’; wisdom; human nature; the church; Christ and God…
Those looking to know the authorship of James have three different viewpoints from which to evaluate this letter. There is a traditional view that James was the brother of Jesus and that this is HIS letter to the persecuted church of the late 1st century.
The 2nd view of this is that the book was written by an anonymous author using the pseudonym James because James would have been a very recognizable name and people would have paid attention to it! This theory usually pins down the date of authorship sometime in the early to mid 2nd century.
The 3rd view is a view that the book of James is nothing more than a rehashing of a Jewish book of teaching and James took it and ‘Christianized’ it… meaning that James was NOT the author but plagiarized some Jewish book.
The date of writing varies according to what view of authorship one may hold. If one holds to the traditional view of authorship, meaning that James the brother of Jesus wrote this letter, then the dating of the letter would be the middle of the 1st century (40-50AD)
BUT there are many who believe James, the brother of Jesus wrote this letter, but they would argue that the dispersion of the Jewish population happened when Rome burned Jerusalem to the ground in AD70… and they would say James wrote this after this dispersion…
However, Kurt Richardson, author of the New American Commentary on James says that if the author is James, the brother of Jesus then the book had to be written before AD62 but he offers no clear reason to why this must be… suffice it to say if James, the brother of Jesus wrote the book it was written in the latter half of the 1st century…
If one holds to an anonymous writer using the pseudonym James, then the dating of the letter would be early to mid 2nd century.
But if one holds to the Jewish writing and James or some other author, “Christianizing” this writing… it would actually predate Christ in its original form and be revamped somewhere late 1st century to early 2nd century.